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Construction Projects Planned for Next Spring

Sophia Tuttle

A series of planning meetings is due to start next month for members of the Mills community to discuss changes to the Campus Master Plan and project a start date for new construction projects in the spring of 2006.

The Master Plan, most recently updated in May of 2001, provides a framework for future development of college facilities. The current plan calls for the development of the “Campus Core,” the center for academic, administrative and student facilities based around Toyon Meadow.

In the planning meetings, a committee of 12 consultants chartered by the Board of Trustees, including faculty, staff, students, the Mills College consulting architect and a sustainability expert, will revise the plan to include a cutting edge section on environmental sustainability and add a plan for historic preservation.

The committee has a unique goal, according to Karen Maggio, assistant vice president for Business Affairs.

“It’s ‘honor the old and respect the old but promote the cutting edge things on this campus,’” said Maggio. “This won’t really be a chapter in our planning but more of a philosophy to govern how we go about building from here on out.”

The sustainability revision will prioritize an upgraded recycling program. The College is currently working on a grant to provide an adequate number of receptacles and increased recycling service.

The college plans to work toward a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified building, conforming to a series of standards in the categories of site, energy, water, materials, and indoor environment. The Vera Long building was created according to these standards, and while it did not ultimately pass the certification, it “nearly perfectly” meets the standards, according to Elizabeth Burwell, vice president for Finance and Administration and Treasurer.

“We have to ask if we would rather have a plaque on the wall or comfortable student seating, that’s what it ultimately comes down to,” she said.

Partial funding for future projects will come from the college’s five year Sesquicentennial Campaign, which raised approximately $132 million before drawing to a close last December. Bond financing will also be used. “We need 90 to 95 percent of funding in place before we start a project,” said Burwell.

After the campus environmental policy has been established, construction plans can be finalized, Maggio said. On the agenda for the development set to begin in 2006 is a new, 2-story, fully sustainable science building to house chemistry, physics, and biology, with an estimated cost of between $11 and $12 million, according to Burwell.

Also in the works are plans for a renovated Student Center on Adams Plaza, including a combined post office and mail and copy center and a centralized food service with dining hall, as well as a new MBA building.

A team is currently looking at MBA buildings around the Bay Area to plan for the new building to account for increased student interest in the 4+1 business degree. Lorry Lokey’s $10 million donation will help to fund this project, which is still in the rudimentary stages of planning.

This strengthening of the “Campus Core” is an extension of the design created by Susan and Cyrus Mills in the campus’ earliest days. “We want to orient all buildings around it, both in terms of visuals and practicality,” said Paul Richards, director of Campus Facilities.

Richards believes in the pedestrian nature of Mills and views the use of cars as the primary threat facing the current plan.

“If you can drive, the door is open for much bigger distances and a more spread out campus,” he said.

However, the current plan proposes a central area, calling for buildings up to three stories and limiting the use of cars.

No plans are in the works for additional parking, according to Richards.

“According to the City of Oakland, the density of our campus does not require us to put in one more parking space until we reach 4,000 students,” he said.

Other upcoming plans include construction of new student apartments, additions to the music building, and a new wing of the Art Museum. Mary Morse Hall will reopen for student residents next fall.

Renovations and retrofitting will be ongoing on campus. The Campus Master Plan summarizes the conditions of all campus buildings in its appendix. Lisser Hall, Ethel Moore Hall, and Orchard Meadow are categorized as having “major structural of life safety issues” and “in most need of immediate investment and maintenance” by the plan.

Richards says he and his team are steadily working on this issue.

“They’re sound, they’re just not built to current standards,” he said, acknowledging that he is well aware of the pressure to retrofit.

“We work according to the prudent person theory,” said Burwell. “We look at what would stand long enough for all the people to get out.”